Friends, we are launching a new series, "This is my story..."  The title of the series is taken from the popular Fanny Crosby hymn, "Blessed Assurance," whose refrain is, "This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long."  Over the years, I've gotten to know many stories of members of our parish.  I have been encouraged by them and grateful for God's work among us.  I believe these stories need to be shared and that by doing so, we can encourage one another.  John's story is the first in the series --and what a story it is!  I invite and encourage you to share your story as well. I'd love to share them with our parish.  Testimony is a powerful thing in the body of Christ, as you can see below.

John Seward

My coming to Christ was not a sudden spectacular event. I was not blinded by the light on the road to Damascus. It was a long, gradual process.

I was not exposed to Christianity growing up. My parents were not religious. I never set foot in a church until I was an adult and then only for the occasional wedding or funeral. As a kid I assumed that the story of Jesus was just something adults told children, like Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. I didn’t have any idea that grown-ups actually believed it.

When I was in college at Iowa State University I was the kind of atheist jerk who mocked people for believing in God. Then the 60s arrived. I was living in a crash pad in Iowa City in 1966 when a friend of mine discovered that you could order fresh peyote buttons through the mail from Lawson’s Texas Cactus Gardens. The first time I ate peyote my materialism vanished. There were obviously more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in my philosophy.

After that it was a long, strange trip through psychedelics, Zen, a false prophet named Stephen Gaskin, eight years living on a hippie commune in Tennessee, and a period of going to Native American Church tipi meetings, among many spiritual dead end journeys. I read many many books on Buddhism, Jungian psychology, Yoga, everything but the Bible. Christianity was too square, unhip.

Then I came across C. S. Lewis, and was presented with a clear, coherent, intelligent, passionate exposition of the truth of Jesus Christ. If this is really true, if Jesus really is the Son of God who came to Earth, was crucified, died, was resurrected, and ascended into Heaven, that changes everything. It made such perfect sense that that is what the Creator would do. That is who He must be.

At that point it was an intellectual realization. There must be a God and the God of the Bible must be who he is. I loved Zen, but this was clearly a more human and more profound truth. I started thinking of myself as a Christian, but I was still very leery of getting involved with a church. I called myself a lone wolf Christian.

At some point reading Lewis I found a passage describing the absolute necessity of being a member of a church, which is after all the body of Christ, and of taking part in the sacrament of Communion. So I figured I had better find a church. I went online and looked at church websites in Murfreesboro and listened to some recorded sermons. Finally I came to and listened to a sermon from Father B that I really liked. As it turns out, Candace had happened to drive by Saint Patrick's previously and thought it was a church I might like, just from the look of it.

So I went on Sunday. I was a little nervous. I’m not exactly a people person, and I had never attended church before. Father Ray was preaching. I loved it. I loved everything about it. I loved the liturgy. I loved the sermon. I loved the people. I started going to the class in Cole House that Father Chris was teaching. I asked him about being baptized.

Easter 2019 I was baptized and everything changed. The Holy Spirit entered my life. I began receiving instructions, to pray in the morning and the evening, to read the Bible, to quit drinking and smoking marijuana, to catch myself before being irritated by little things that didn't go my way.

I had never thought of myself as being a sinner. I always believed I was a good person. Now I realized how wrong I was. I became painfully aware of the sins I had committed against many people, my parents, my wife, my children, friends, lovers. I confessed my sins to Father Ray, repented, was absolved, and began to make amends. What a relief! I am happier and more at peace now than I have ever been. As Father Chris has said, it’s night and day. Recently my wife told me, “You are much easier since you became a Christian.”

The Holy Spirit has also informed me that far from being the accomplished spiritual athlete I imagined myself to be, I am a rank beginner. My faith is weak, my trust in the Lord is wobbly. I have a long way to go, but there is help. The way is narrow, but His yoke is easy.